Marc’s Milk Carton: An orphaned contratenor voice

The Vienna Ars Nova Fragment A-Wn Fragm406, found and photographed by Robert Klugseder for the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library), features on its recto side the remains of a lone contratenor voice for which I could not find a concordance so far. Therefore, I would like to dedicate the second edition of the “Milk Carton” to this fragment of a voice, which is now bereft of its counterpoint:

Marc's Milk Carton: "Contratenor"

Marc’s Milk Carton: “Contratenor”

The fragment was already discussed in a post on the “Musikleben” blogsite as one of the “Vienna Fragments”, and given that the surrounding notation on Fragment 406 could be identified as Ars Nova compositions (“Mon tres dous coer” & “Je languis d’amere mort”), as well as taking into account the typical layout and notation, one can safely assume that this contratenor voice once belonged to an Ars Nova composition. The fact that the fragment seems to give the beginning of the voice should facillitate the search, but even though I checked most of PMFC I could not find a concordance. It may of course very well be that this voice is an alternative contratenor, not edited in PMFC or that is a yet unknown, “new” contratenor to a known composition. This is my transcription of the fragmented voice (not much, I have to concede, probably even too little):

Fragment of an unknown contratenor voice.

Fragment of an unknown contratenor voice.

My question is: Have you encountered this voice or do you know a composition to which this voice could have belonged?

Marc Lewon


Marc’s Milk Carton: Who recognises the “tagweiß”?

The first item on Marc’s Milk Carton is Linz Fragment 21 (photographed by Robert Klugseder for the cataloguing project Musikalische Quellen (9.-15. Jahrhundert) in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Musical Sources (9th-15th Century) in the Austrian National Library). The piece features the incipt “Ein tagweiß” under the discantus voice and “tag weiß” under the tenor line. It was already presented and transcribed in an earlier post on the “Musikleben” blogsite.

Marc's Milk Carton

“Ein tagweiß”

This points to the minnesang genre of the “tagelied” in which the secret lovers have to part at dawn (after a night which they had spent together) in order to avoid detection by other courtiers and backbiters. The version in the Linz fragments is untexted and used to feature four voices. When comparing the surviving voices, however, it becomes obvious that the setting is a polyphonic embellishment of an originally monophonic song. The melody of this song was placed in the tenor line and functions a sort of cantus firmus, much like the polyphonic settings of the possible Oswald monody “Heýa ho nún wie si grollen”, one of which also survives on Linz Fragment 2.

The most striking feature of this setting is the alternating rhythmic pattern of semibreve-minim-semibreve-minim, etc. which is omnipresent in the composition and most prominent in the tenor line. This kind of rhythmic structures seems to be closely connected to the monophonic, syllabic German song repertoire of the late Middle Ages. I like to call it “reference rhythm”, because it appears to depict metrical structures rather than “prescribing” a strict or even “dance-like” rhythm (for more information about the concept of the “reference rhythm” and for a discussion of the fragment including a transcription see the post “Ein tagweiß” on the “Musikleben” blogsite).

My question is: Does anyone recognise either the polyphonic setting of “Ein tagweiß” or—what seems even more likely to me—its tenor line as monophonic song, possibly entirely without a musical rhythm or rhythmised in this fashion?

Ein tagweiß (attempted reconstruction of the rhythmicised monody)

Ein tagweiß (attempted reconstruction of the rhythmised monody)

Marc Lewon

Marc’s Milk Carton – “Have you seen this melody?”

During my research work I tend to come across a number of melodies or fragments of compositions which I cannot identify or link to a concordance. My work for the “Musical Life Project” on the Vienna Ars Nova and Linz Fragments in particular has brought to attention a frustrating number of “nameless” or “tagless” pieces. In many cases the existence of these pieces has long been known.Their identity, however, still remains unresolved. With this new category on my blog site—Marc’s Milk Carton—I would like to select some of those untagged melodies or compositions which I feel are promising candidates for the search for concordances. Maybe someone might recognise a melody, a phrase or a voice and can help to find a missing link in order to put those yet “unknown” pieces on the map.

(Incidentally, I understand very well that people who have identified a new concordance want to publish their identifications themselves. I just want to put these nameless fragments and pieces out there. If, however, you want to share your findings in the comment section below, I would of course be very happy to announce it and credit you duely. But I’ll be just as happy if new findings will be published elsewhere.)

I present to you:

Marc's Milk Carton

Marc’s Milk Carton

Marc Lewon

PS: Just before its release, the idea of the “Milk Carton” was anticipated by an identification of one of the pieces on my list: Linz Fragment 29 was recognised by David Fallows who informed me of the concordance. The tentative transcription of the abbreviated incipit “Domine martine(?)” was identified as the composition “Dung plus amer”, possibly with a corrupted incipit in the source. Check out the original post with the fragmentary transcription and the revisited fragment.